Smartphones have surpassed various standalone devices like MP3 players, video players, standalone point-and-shoot cameras as well as handheld gaming devices which were all the rage a few years ago (PS Vita, Game Boy). Not only do smartphones feature better displays, multi-touch functionality as well as stellar new processors, they are also connected and app-enabled devices, which means that there are endless ways to edit and share the content you create.

In the case of MP3 players, the recent surge in popularity of streaming music services makes it possible to access millions of songs and playlists on demand without needing to carry them around on your device’s storage. Speaking of storage, this has become cheaper while capacities have quadrupled over the past few years.  Which makes expensive hard drive-based devices quite obsolete.


The last exciting iPod

Apple’s iPod line took over the MP3 player and portable media player market until it eradicated all competition. But then, the iPhone came along and soon after, so did the Android devices and other smartphones that emulated, among other things, the iPhone’s excellent iPod features.

The iPod Touch has always been the iPhone without the Phone and, no surprise, it was a popular option for younger users who didn’t need the data or voice capability but who wanted to access the messaging, email, web-browsing and app ecosystem that the iPhone had to offer.

The iPod Touch was kept one generation behind the iPhone (at times two generations) in terms of specs and capabilities. The iPod Touch hardware has also been of lower quality and specs of the iPhone. For example, the display was not as bright or as clear or the camera was more of an afterthought.

This year though, the iPod Touch has received quite an upgrade. For one thing, it can now be had with 128 GB of storage, which is the most you’ll get on any Apple device including the lust-worthy new iPad Pro.

Along with this boost in storage, you also get a much improved Apple A8 processor, the very same one used on the iPhone 6 but since the iPod Touch doesn’t have a cellphone radio and antennas to suck out battery life, should give users around 10 hours of battery life.

The A8 processor, coupled with iOS 9, give the iPod Touch a lot of performance upside, including vastly improved graphics performance and make the iPod Touch an able multitasker. More importantly, the new Metal architecture, Apple’s take on OpenGL graphics, makes it possible to enable with friction-free graphics performance that approximates higher-end game performance on consoles.


Camera improvements

It’s no surprise that the 8-megapixel camera on the new iPod Touch is very, very good. It’s the same 8-megapixel sensor found on the iPhone 6. Apple didn’t scrimp on the iPod Touch, we get an 8MP iSight camera, autofocus, a versatile ƒ/2.4 aperture, a five-element lens, hybrid IR filter, backside illumination, auto image stabilization and one of the best auto HDR features for Photos.

This camera also has improved face detection, exposure control, the ability to shoot panoramas (up to 43 MP), burst mode capability, fast tap to focus capabilities and smart photo geotagging over Wi-Fi plus timer mode. These are all tried and tested technologies which have made the iPhone the biggest smartphone camera in the market and now iPod Touch users can have this creative power at their disposal in a device that’s extremely thin and light.

I was amazed and delighted at the detail and clarity of the photos I managed to take on this super-thin iPod Touch. For a camera that is so thin and light, it is quite remarkable what this can pull off. Add in all the access to various camera apps, editing apps and sharing apps out there and the iPod Touch becomes a serious, connected and capable standalone camera with oodles of onboard storage and a direct pipeline into the Apple ecosystem.

This is really unlike any standalone point-and-shoot camera in the market right now, even Samsung’s various connected cameras who may be more powerful in terms of hardware, lack the ease of use and general simplicity of the new iPod Touch.

Like many people who have amassed a lot of music through the years, the iPod Classic remains a favorite even if the user interface, once considered revolutionary, is seriously outdated. The Classic can no longer be made in mass quantities because many of the parts for it are no longer being made. The iPod Touch is then the best device to take the mantle from the O.G. iPod.

While I find the iPod Touch to be a very progressive music player, it does seem to fall short in a number of areas. Apple’s iron grip on formats still limits the iPod Touch in terms of playing back lossless and high-resolution audio files. Although, you can download apps that will help you play almost any format on the iPod Touch, it isn’t really geared towards the audiophile.

The onboard speaker of the iPod Touch is still pitifully thin, again the compromise of having such a thin enclosure. You really need to have great headphones or Bluetooth or AirPlay speakers to really maximize the audio experience of the iPod Touch.


So, who is it for?

iPod Touch is for the iPhone users who can’t afford an iPhone or who doesn’t need to subscribe to data or voice plans. It is ideal for anyone invested in the app store, this includes developers who want a test device to run their apps, Android users who may love their smartphones but who also have some FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) from all the exclusive apps and features available on iOS.

Music lovers who are invested in services like Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal or any of the dozens of smaller music streaming services are guaranteed a good experience on a WiFi connected iPod Touch which is hopefully set up to output music to a good set of speakers.

The benefits of the iPod Touch are that it will get many of the iPhone’s features, updates and apps at a much lower price than even a second-hand iPhone. If you’re a casual gamer, a music lover, a new app aficionado or even just invested in iMessage, FaceTime or iCloud, the iPod Touch is really one of the cheapest ways to stay in the ecosystem.

This article first appeared in the November 2015 issue of 2nd Opinion Magazine.